The first time I visited the Presidio of San Francisco was during spring break. It was love at first sight and I knew immediately that was where I wanted to spend my summer internship. I remember QiZhang and I were standing on a concrete military battery appropriated by skateboarders, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. With the warm sun shining, I was charmed! After that, it didn’t take long for me to hear the great news that my application was accepted. And now here I am, with 2 weeks left of a great summer internship, still charmed (albeit for the cold San Francisco weather that I was not prepared for) and having learned so much more about the field of preservation.

The Presidio is a former military base converted to a national park, run by the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust, a federal agency set up to manage the park and its properties. The site is located on the tip of San Francisco, at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay, and is one of the landing points of the Golden Gate Bridge. The site was chosen as a military base in 1776 because of its strategic location. It has flown under the flags of three different nations – Spain (1776), Mexico (1822), and finally the USA (1846).

What makes the Presidio so valuable in military and national history is that this site provides built documentation of over 200 years of military development and activities – from structures and landscaping, to the man-made but natural-looking forests, to objects and artifacts. The Presidio was added to the National Register in 1966. It goes without saying that preservation and maintenance of such an important place is a challenging task, and I am in awe of the people that have made it happen.

So as an intern in the Historic Compliance office of the Presidio Trust I am working under two Columbia HP alums, and have been tasked with compiling design guidelines for the future adaptive reuse of a group of buildings. The area is known as the Halleck Street District, a sub district of the Main Post, and is made up of a group of buildings formerly run by the post’s quartermaster. These buildings include 2 bakery buildings, two storage warehouses, and two specialty storage buildings (one for flammable storage, and the other a root house). My task has been to research and analyze the history of these buildings and from there, determine individual treatment recommendations and formulate design guidelines for the district as a whole.

This has been a challenging and rewarding task, and it’s good to know that my work will be put to use at a later stage. My experience here has been very informative and enjoyable. I have had the opportunity to see just how much it takes to run and maintain a site of this magnitude. I have also had the pleasure of seeing other historic sites including Hamilton Airfield Base, Fort Baker, the Marin County Civic Centre designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Alcatraz. All in all, it’s been an enriching and rewarding experience.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Battery Boutelle in The Presidio